Monday, Feb. 09, 2004


As one of the most sought-after models of the 1970s and '80s, Iman challenged the notions of beauty in the pages of fashion magazines. The Somalian native, now 48, has done the same in the world of cosmetics. When she stepped off the runway for good in 1989 Iman realized that other women of color were having the same problems with makeup that she had confronted before photo shoots. "As a model, I had to play chemist and mix and match foundations to find a skin tone suitable for me," she says.

Women of color have skin tones in a myriad of shades, Iman explains. Although most major cosmetics companies make products for these women, the offerings have been slim. So in 1994 Iman launched the IMAN Cosmetics and Skincare collection exclusively for women of African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern or Native American descent. "A well-known brand may have six foundations total, whereas I have over 30 foundations just for women of color," she says. This year IMAN Cosmetics will expand nationwide to stores like Target and Walgreens.

"Every model and her mother has a line of makeup," says fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. "But Iman's is really right. No one has done a line of cosmetics for women of color in this luxurious, designer sort of way."

In 2000 Iman introduced a second line for women of all skin tones. I-IMAN Makeup, sold by the upscale retailer Sephora, has a more daring palette. "I started this line after watching urban girls who don't follow any rules, girls who wear glitter during the day and a nude face at night."

Both lines include hair and skin-care products. "I would never create cosmetics without skin care," Iman says. "I find that in Western societies girls wear makeup way too young and worry about their skin way too late. I grew up with the opposite mentality."